by Barry Newton
Who would confuse, “If you practice every day, you will not be cut from the team” with “You will never be cut from the team.” If anyone were to strip away the conditional nature of the former forcing it to be understood as the latter, the motive might be desire.
The impulse to hear what we want is powerful. It can deafen us to the actual message.
Just listen to Jesus’, Paul’s, Peter’s and James’ voices as they frankly inform God’s people, not the lost, that their reception of the reward is conditional upon persistent faithfulness.
“The kingdom of heaven…is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them…After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled his account with them…Then the one who had received the one talent came and said,…I went and hid your talent in the ground…But his master answered,…’throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'” (Matthew 25:1,14,19,24,25,26,30).
“By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2).
“Make every effort to be sure of your calling and election. For by doing this you will never stumble. For thus an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be richly provided for you” (2 Peter 1:10-11).
“What good is it brothers, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? … As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:14,26).
If someone were to denounce the necessity of faithfulness, would the motive be to expound the text or to align it with something else?
Contrary to peddling fear with the objection, “but a person will never know if they have done enough,” Jesus emphasized faithfulness against unfaithfulness, not quantity. The two talent man received the same reward as the five talent man even though he achieved less.
Scripture does not confuse the grace enabling us to enter salvation with a subsequent force erasing the demands of discipleship. Neither should we.
Christ crucified provides the entire basis for a disciple’s salvation. God’s workmanship creates new disciples in Christ to do good works. Rebellion against the Creator’s purposes carries severe consequences.
To appeal to a father’s refusal to sever his relationship with his children, such as in Psalm 103, to diminish our need for faithfulness, stretches the metaphor beyond the limits of the Bible’s contextual message.
For those who have ears to hear, the conditional nature of salvation rings out:
“Notice therefore the kindness and harshness of God — harshness toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be broken off” (Romans 11:22).
Scripture is not complicated. What becomes convoluted and bewildering are the mental gymnastics that arise from silencing one aspect of God’s voice with one’s perception of other parts of scripture.
“If you practice every day, you will not be cut from the team” is not the same as, “You will never be cut from the team.”